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A balance of fact and fiction

By Mei Jia (China Daily)

09:58, May 03, 2012

China Daily reporter Mei Jia interviewed Ha Jin on Nanjing Requiem, his latest book, which has been released in both Chinese and English.

It seems you experienced "painful" days when writing the novel. Why?

I made a mistake in adopting a limited third-person point of view in the beginning, but after more than 30 revisions I overhauled the whole thing and restarted the novel in the first person.

How do you manage to balance historical facts and fictional creation?

Some American readers like excitement and flourishes in language, but the novel is about a major tragic event and I could not - dared not - use colorful language. I meant to make it plain and straightforward. Also, the novel was narrated by a Chinese woman, to whom English was a foreign language - there is no justification for a lyrical language like that used in Waiting.

What was your goal in writing the story?

I meant to explore the mental and psychological damage done to the victims, because the actual atrocities are recorded abundantly in history books.

You said the novel is actually a story about the United States, because it features the American, Minnie Vautrin. Why?

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